The Labour Relations Commission has once again been tasked with finding enough common ground between Aer Lingus management and its staff to stave off potentially significant strikes which could ground tens of thousands of passengers in the run-up to Christmas.
However, the talks on Friday, to be chaired by LRC director of conciliation Kevin Foley, will only address the issues which exist between management and cabin crew over the closure of Shannon Airport, and not the other major flashpoint, staff rosters.
The closure, which will happen in the next few weeks, will mean 87 cabin crew will face either relocation to Dublin or Cork, voluntary severance, unpaid leave for those who secure work with a crewing agency ACL, or redundancy.
Aer Lingus is closing the base because, after failing to reach agreement with Impact trade union on cabin crew numbers on its new, increased frequency transatlantic schedule, it decided to use ACL to provide the staff instead. That meant it no longer needed to keep the crew it had in Shannon.
Yesterday, Aer Lingus chief executive Christoph Mueller made it clear that there would be no reneging on the decision to use ACL cabin crew.
He said the airline had “kilometres” of correspondence trying to work out the impasse over cabin crew levels with Impact.
“We wanted to do it with our own crew but we had to close the contract,” he said. That makes it highly unlikely that the company will back down on its decision to close Shannon. Mr Mueller said the company was in the midst of the obligatory consultation period to make that happen. He did say there was scope for 24 people to relocate to Dublin.
Last night in the Dáil, Transport Minister Leo Varadkar said that as a publicly quoted company, decisions regarding the company’s employees were a commercial matter and his department had no role in such decisions.
However, he said the closure of the Shannon cabin crew base would be “very regrettable”, adding “the Government would urge the parties to make every effort to reach agreement so that the base can remain open”.
“The Government strongly urges both sides to use the available industrial relations machinery of the State to reach agreement on the matter as soon as possible, in the interests of the travelling public, the staff and the company. Industrial action in the company could be very disrupting for passengers in the run up to Christmas, and very damaging for the company,” he said.
The minister said the Government would be communicating to its members on the Aer Lingus board that it was its preference that the base should remain open, that the additional jobs for the new flight schedule should go to Aer Lingus employees.
BA planes are quietest
British Airways short-haul services have the quietest planes at Heathrow, with Virgin Atlantic’s Little Red domestic service the second least-noisy carrier, and Aer Lingus third.
According to the first list of airline noise performance at the airport, BA short-haul topped a 50-strong table compiled by Heathrow bosses.
Major carriers took up the rest of the top 10, with all 50 carriers being judged on six noise-related criteria. Fourth least-noisy was American Airlines, followed by Qantas, Emirates, United Delta, KLM and Lufthansa.
In 50th and last place, and by definition the noisiest of the major carriers at the west London airport, was Polish airline LOT, with Israeli carrier El Al 49th and Thai Airways 48th.
The scores were based on noise levels during the period July to September. Of the listed airlines, 80% met Heathrow’s minimum requirements, with 94% meeting five of the six categories.
Heathrow sustainability director Matt Gorman said: “We are at the forefront of international efforts to tackle aircraft noise and are committed to continuing to reduce the number of people affected by noise.
“The launch of the Fly Quiet programme signals our firm commitment to being transparent about aircraft noise and our progress in reducing its impact on local communities whilst still safeguarding the vital connectivity and economic growth that Heathrow provides.”
John Stewart, chair of noise campaign group Hacan, said: “We welcome this initiative from Heathrow. It is a constructive move to improve the noise climate.”
BA head of environment Jonathon Counsell said: “We are very pleased that our short-haul fleet has proved itself the quietest at Heathrow, and we know we can do more.”
— Peter Woodman
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